On the 11th of December, 2019 the parliament passed one of the most controversial acts “The Citizenship Amendment Act,2019 (CAA)”, it amended the Citizenship Act,1955. This act became effective from 10th January 2020. It provided a path to Indian citizenship to the illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014. Now what made this act so controversial is the very fact that it removes Muslim minorities, and which acts as religion being overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian Law.
WHAT ARE THE AMENDMENTS DONE BY THE GOVERNMENT IN THE CITIZENSHIP ACT,1955 (WHICH FROM NOW WILL BE KNOWN AS THE PRINCIPLE ACT)?
Ø Section 2, subsection (1), in clause (b) of the principle Act the following provison is been inserted, namely:-
‘ Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain or Parsi community from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, who entered India on or before the 31st day of December 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Passport (entry into India) Act, 1920 (34 of 1920) or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946) or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as an illegal migrant for the purpose of this act.’
Ø Section 5. Amendment of Section 18, sub-section (2), after clause (e) of the principle Act, the following clause has been inserted, namely:-
‘The conditions, restrictions, and manner for granting a certificate of registration or certificate of naturalization under sub-section (1) of Section 6-B.’
Ø Section 6. Amendment of Third Schedule, clause (d) of the principle Act, the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:-
‘Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain or Parsi community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of residence or service of the Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as “not less than five years” in place of “ not less than eleven years.”.’
Earlier the act used the naturalisation process to give citizenship to the illegal migrants. In the naturalisation process, these migrants were required to stay in the country for 11 years to attain citizenship but after the new act, these certain religious minorities will be given special privileges that include attaining citizenship by staying 5 years in the country while the naturalisation process remains the same for Muslim minorities.
In this article, we will discover both sides of the coin and will conclude with our personal opinion about the Act. There are various aspects of this Act which we will like to explain through our writing. We will understand both the Anti-CAA and Pro-CAA views on this act and what is making this act unconstitutional and what were the motives behind the governments implementing the act. We will also see the objections or criticism by the opposition leaders and the opinions of various experts.
CAA’S HISTORY DATES BACK TO 1985
The CAA has its genesis in the 1985 Rajiv Gandhi AASU Pact. The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India ( the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi) and the leaders of the Assam Movement, on 15th August,1985. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979 concluded with the signing of the Assam Accord.
The key focus areas were:
1. Foreigners issue
2. Economic development
3. Restricting the acquisition of immovable property by foreigners
4. Prevention encroachment of government lands
5. Registration of births and deaths
This was done to ensure the protection of the political, social, economic and cultural identity of the local people.
So, the question that still stands is, “How CAA Challenges the AASU Pact?”
Clause 5 of the Assam Accord deals with the issue of foreigners, that is, detection of foreigners in Assam, deletion of their names from the voters' list and their deportation through practical means. It stated that "All persons who came to Assam before 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized." In simple words, illegal immigrants who entered Assam till December 31, 1965 were to be granted citizenship with voting rights immediately.
So after the CAA, based on religious persecution, all those illegal immigrants are to be given citizenship not only in Assam but also in other countries too. The amended Citizenship Act has shifted the cut-off date for granting citizenship from 24th of March 1971 to 31st of December 2014 - that is, by 43 years nine months and seven days. The protesters see this as a move by the Centre to go back on their promise made to protect their Assamese cultural identity.
WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS PRESENTED BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR CAA?
So firstly we would like to understand what was the central logic behind the Act. According to the Government in power, these minorities have come escaping persecution in Muslim- majority nations. They have faced a lot of exploitation in the Muslim - majority country and that’s why they came to this country, to seek peace and happiness. The CAA is an attempt to extend justice to the persecuted minorities from the said three countries living in refugee camps for decades. As for equality before law and Article 14, which is has been invoked or made unconstitutional as quoted by the protesters, is not for refugees or infiltrators. It applies only to Indian citizens. The latter will come under the preview of the asylum rules, applicable to aliens from foreign countries. The arguments given in favor of the CAA have largely sought to explain it as legislation that falls within the ‘reasonable classification’ permitted by Article 14. The argument, as made by the Home Minister Amit Shah in the parliament, and reiterated by senior advocate Harish Salve, relies because Article 14 of the Constitution allows for the doctrine of reasonable classification in favor of a group of people who deserve special treatment, based on intelligible difference.
WHY THE PROTEST? WHAT MAKES CAA UNCONSTITUTIONAL? WHY IS IT WRONG? LET’S FIND OUT:
The foremost question that revolves around the Act is - why has been religion added to the ambit of citizenship in a secular country like India. The CAB ring-fences Muslim identity by declaring India a welcome refuge to all other religious communities. It seeks to legally establish Muslims as second-class citizens of India by providing preferential treatment to other groups. This violates the Constitution’s Article 14, the fundamental right to equality for all persons. This basic structure of the Constitution cannot be reshaped by any Parliament. And yet, the government maintains that it does not discriminate or violate the right to equality.
Secondly, the new argument that has been stated by IIM Ahmedabad’s professor, Mr. Chinmay Tumbe, as India is not a signatory to UN Protocols on the refugee. Thus, we need a holistic refugee policy with some annual limits. The CAA is very vague about refugees, the word is not part of the amendment itself, which describes the only conversion of status from illegal to legal for six religions of three Islamic neighboring countries who entered before 31st December,2014. The government has chosen three Islamic neighbors. The question is why these three. If this was about Partition and Liaquat-Nehru Pact, then why Afghanistan? Even if Afghanistan is on the list because it's a neighboring country, then why not Myanmar. If this was about high number of refugees, then the first priority should have been Sri Lanka, which as per UNHCR data comprise the bulk of refugees in India. Then the issue of the 6 religions. BJP politicians say persecuted Muslims (referred to as Shia Muslims) can go to so many Muslim countries. Then why bring Christians and Buddhists in the ambit when there are so many Christian and Buddhist countries as well. Both the selection of neighboring countries and the religions have little to no logic, and hence, it seems that it's a deliberate way in order to exclude Muslims. I believe it is this signal which riles many Indian Muslims even though CAA on its own does not affect them.
The exclusion of ethnic attributes was deliberate action because including it would allow Rohingyas (who are mainly Muslim) to apply for Indian citizenship.
PROTESTS ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY:
The protests started in Assam on 4 December 2019, after the bill was introduced in parliament. Later on, protests erupted in Northeast India, and subsequently spread to the major cities of India. On 15 December, major protests took place near Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University. As the protests spread, private and public property was burnt and destroyed by mobs, and some railway stations were vandalized. Police forcibly entered the campus of Jamia, used batons and tear gas on the students, and more than 200 students were injured while around 100 were detained overnight in the police station. The police action was widely criticized and resulted in students across the country protesting in solidarity.
The protests have resulted in thousands of arrests and 27 deaths as of 27 December 2019. Two 17-year old minors were among those reported to have been killed due to police firing live ammunition on protesters in Assam. On 19 December, the police issued a complete ban on protests in several parts of India. As a result of defying the ban, thousands of protesters were detained.
From major crackdowns of Indian University to wide-ranged protests in different corners of the country, people have shown a wave of widespread anger over this bill. Not only it provokes their rights to some extends but also questions the secularity that the constitution has mentioned. From silent protests outside the university in Assam to violent protests that set railway stations and police stations on fire. In Dispur, several thousands of protesters broke down police barricades to protest in front of the Assam Legislative Assembly building. Demonstrations were also held in Agartala. On 15 December 2019, a concert was staged by artists of Assam as a protest against the CAA. The concert was themed as 'No CAA, Concert for peace and harmony'. Along with music, paintings were also demonstrated in the event.
Access to the internet was restricted in Assam by the administrative authorities. A curfew was also declared in Assam and Tripura due to the protests, leading to army deployment as protesters defied the curfews. Railway services were suspended and some airlines started to waive rescheduling or cancellation fees in those areas. Officials reported that at least four people died after clashes with police in Guwahati, Assam. Dipanjal Das and Sam Stafford died due to police firing on 12 December.